What does David Hume mean by saying that human nature is a bundle of perceptions?

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The "bundle of perceptions" theory is one of David Hume's most significant contributions. Hume was an empiricist, meaning that he saw human perception as the source of human understanding. This idea, perhaps most famously expressed by John Locke as a "tabula rasa," rejected the notion that humans were born with innate understandings of the world around them. Thus everything, including what we imagine as human nature and the mind, was the result of perception:

...they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.

By "they," Hume meant concepts or ideas, held by some to be innate. In this passage, he was specifically rejecting the French philosopher Rene Descartes, who had argued for the existence of these concepts, which he held to be essentially divine in origin. Hume thought that human understanding, and thus human nature, was the effect of interactions with the world...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 885 words.)

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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on December 10, 2019